Small Steps, Big Changes

It is tempting to sweep everything aside and make huge changes with what we eat. Throw out everything at once and bring in all new foods, all new ways of cooking, all new menus. For some people that might work well. In my imagination, it certainly is the best way to do things: if what we are doing now is mediocre, adopt the best practices right away. Why wouldn’t that be for the best?

The problem with giant steps is that there are so many habits and behaviors ingrained around food that changing all of them, in one sweep, has been too overwhelming and disorienting for us in the past. I’m sure there are plenty of people who adapt well to massive changes like that, but I’m not one of them, nor is the rest of my family.

We’ve established two days of the week with set dinner menus: Sunday is make-your-own sushi (my daughters’ favorite) and Monday is make-your-own nachos (my husband’s favorite). The routine is helpful for everyone involved, and they are comforted to know that, whatever else we have to eat during the week, there will be at least two meals that they like.

It took a while to figure out how to adapt these meals to grain-free, since both have grains as a centerpiece. I figured that there would be a huge outcry and protest. I hesitated, reluctant to rock the boat. Perhaps it would be better to toss out the familiar meals and replace them with something new instead? Something without the conventional, grain-based anchors?

I tried it: I introduced all-new recipes for Sunday and Monday. I tossed Sushi Sunday and Macho Nacho Monday out the door. We ate paleo on those days instead.

It was, if not a disaster, at least not well-received. They wanted their familiar meals back.

So we went back, but I made sticky cauliflower sushi rice, instead of regular rice. I held my breath, waiting to see if it would be accepted.

It wasn’t.

But the rest of the meal was. They ate their sushi with minimal complaints (although my oldest was a bit miffed that sushi means ‘rice’ and there wasn’t rice). They would rather have the familiar meal without the familiar but objectionable ingredients than have something else.

I moved on to Macho Nacho Monday, and took away the tortilla chips. There were very few complaints. Again, they would rather have the meal, even if it was slightly different, than not have it.

I’ve had to make further tweaks, especially to sushi night, in order to make up for the missing calories (increasing the amount of fish available, and encouraging everyone to use plenty of mashed avocado to help hold things together as well as provide bulk and calories). But everyone looks forward to the new and improved sushi and nacho nights, and eats with as much enthusiasm as before the changes.

Overall, it confirms what I’m finding to be true: it is better to retain as much of our traditional menu and adapt it to the new requirements, than to throw everything out and use completely new recipes. Some things are challenging, some things haven’t adapted so well, but having the core of our week remain almost the same has helped with the transition.